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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Mark Twain

Chapters 11-14

Chapters 9-10

Chapters 15-19

Summary

A young woman arrives at court and begs for aid in freeing her mistress and 44 other beautiful young princesses from a castle guarded by three giant brothers with four arms and one eye. Despite the clamorings of the Knights of the Round Table, the king assigns the quest to the Yankee. The Yankee questions the woman about the location of the castle and other useful details, but she is no help. Clarence informs him that she will ride with him to show him the way, and he reluctantly agrees to the arrangement. The next morning, the knights help him into his armor and hoist him onto his horse, and he sets off with the woman riding behind him.

They ride along through the countryside, and the Yankee's armor begins to bother him, especially for its lack of pockets and the inaccessibility of his handkerchief. As the sun beats down on his armor, he grows hot and irritable and itchy. He has the woman, Alisande (or Sandy), unfasten his helmet and pour water down inside his armor to relieve him. He realizes he cannot get off his horse until he meets someone to help him remount, and Sandy further annoys him with a constant stream of inane chatter. They stop for the night, and the Yankee is annoyed because he has forgotten to bring matches (produced at one of his factories) for his pipe and they have no food, as knights are supposed to trust to chance for their food on a quest. A storm comes, and they find shelter under rocks. Various species of vermin crawl down inside the Yankee's armor, and he determines never to wear armor again after this journey.

The next morning they set off again (with the Yankee walking) and meet some humble freemen working on the road. The Yankee asks to join them for breakfast, flattering them immensely, while Sandy refuses to partake with peasants. The freemen are sorely oppressed by restrictions on their freedom and heavy taxation by the Church, the king, and their separate lords or bishops. The Yankee asks them if they thought a nation where everyone had a vote would elect to have such an inequitable system as the one they live under, but the idea of democracy is inconceivable to them. Finally, one man catches on and declares the injustice of stealing a nation's will and preference.

The Yankee looks on this man with hope for a plot he has been considering for some time to start a revolution for a more equitable government once the people are ready for such a concept, and he sends the man with a note written on a piece of bark to Camelot for Clarence to put him in the "Man Factory." The man is disappointed at this, as he assumes he must be being sent to a priest, but the Yankee assures him Clarence is not a priest, even though he can read and write. The Yankee gives the freemen three pennies for the food, an exorbitant sum equal to about six dollars in Connecticut. In return for his generosity, they give him a flint and steel and help him mount his horse. They are frightened by his pipe, but he convinces them it is an enchantment that will harm his enemies.

The next day, they meet seven knights who rush at the Yankee en masse, and he scares them away with a burst of smoke from his pipe. The knights stop a little way off, and the Yankee urges Sandy (who slipped off the horse and ran out of the way when she spotted the knights) to remount so they can ride away, as his magic has failed. She refuses, saying the knights have been justly defeated and are merely waiting fearfully to yield to him; she goes over to them and makes them swear to appear at Arthur's court within two days and subject themselves to the Yankee's command.

Commentary

The Yankee is again baffled at sixth-century naivete in this section, as the Round Table unquestioningly accepts Sandy's outlandish story. Her exaggerations correspond exactly with the general mode of communication employed by the court. The Yankee looks at Sandy as a source of information that is just too ignorant to give it out correctly. He asks for credentials, but this concept is too far beyond the sixth-century understanding. The Yankee is so concerned with trying to squeeze information out of Sandy that he fails to see the simple and logical solution employed by the court of having her lead him in person. The Yankee focuses on the practical side of knighthood, especially the trials and tribulations of wearing armor. Chapter 12 starts out with beautiful, idyllic language as the Yankee's journey gets underway; this dissolves into more prosaic terms as the little annoyances of knight-errantry come into focus.

The Yankee first mentions his lost love in this section, Puss Flanagan, a hello-girl from West Hartford. His soft spot for her is readily apparent. Sandy fails to measure up to his memories of Puss; he describes her "comely enough," but his estimation of her personality and intelligence are rather low.

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